How Republics End–Paul Krugman


December 23, 2016

Supposedly free-market politicians are already discovering that crony capitalism is fine as long as it involves the right cronies. It does have to do with class warfare — redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy is a consistent theme of all modern Republican policies. But what directly drives the attack on democracy, I’d argue, is simple careerism on the part of people who are apparatchiks within a system insulated from outside pressures by gerrymandered districts, unshakable partisan loyalty, and lots and lots of plutocratic financial support.–Paul Krugman

Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.

But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In the Name of Rome” says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”

America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a President-Elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though — or, more likely, precisely because — it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.

5 thoughts on “How Republics End–Paul Krugman

  1. Sounds familiar, LaMoy, CLF, Conrad, Veritas, et.al? Our republic is crumbling too, thanks to UMNO cronyism. Our Caesar is at a loss as to what to do, blinded by his passion for corrupt money.

    Please consider Dr. Krugman’s statement (below) about the state of the Republican party, recognising that the Nobel Laureate has the conscience of liberal (whatever that means).

    “Supposedly free-market politicians are already discovering that crony capitalism is fine as long as it involves the right cronies. It does have to do with class warfare — redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy is a consistent theme of all modern Republican policies. But what directly drives the attack on democracy, I’d argue, is simple careerism on the part of people who are apparatchiks within a system insulated from outside pressures by gerrymandered districts, unshakable partisan loyalty, and lots and lots of plutocratic financial support”.

    Merry Xmas and Happy New Year,–Din Merican

  2. We have much more “careerism” in Malaysia than them, we have them on both sides. It is a broader problem here, so much so, Hadi’s PAS who incessantly claim ideological war, now suffers badly from it too.

  3. The Malays have always looked up to rule by Royalty and having the state take care of their well being from the womb to the grave. UMNOB discovered this and now UMNOb leaders are being treated like Royalty and more. Malays kiss the hand of UMNOb leaders which were previously reserved for Royalty. Malays also like the grand titles conferred on them and being addressed as YB’s. Why be?

    The Royalties can only confer titles but UMNOb Royalty can award licenses, permits, contracts and even direct Nego projects worth billions. So who<is the new Royalty.? The Royalties have been shunned aside and told to stay out of politics leaving the citizens with no alternative to ensure that the government is fair and just.

    Sadly the government of Malaysia is known as Kerajaan Malaysia instead of Pemerintah as in Indonesia.

  4. I must confess I’m no fan of Paul Krugman, but I do read his and Michael Moore’s columns just for a good laugh. I like Michael Moore, because he is a comedian and does not pretend to be otherwise. He does not expect people to take his words seriously. Paul Krugman is an example of how utterly useless those Nobel prizes really are in Economics (an inexact science nothing more than theories and assumptions), Peace (given to someone just got into the White House and has done nothing), and Literature (given by judges who do not read or speak the original language of the novel; the prize should be given to the translator, not the original writer).

    Krugman makes the usual Democratic argument about Russian involvement in the hacks against the DNC. He goes after the North Carolina GOP legislature, gerrymandering, disenfranchisement of minority voters, cronyism, and so on. But he never really gets around to a coherent theory that would prove that America is descending into tyranny.

    But he makes some laughable comments along the way. “You have the potential making of a de facto one-party state: one that maintains the fiction of democracy, but has rigged the game so that the other side can never win.” One lost election and liberals are complaining that they “can never win?” Come on, give me a break.

    “Redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy is a consistent theme of all modern Republican policies.” And so that’s what we should interpret the conservatives calling efforts to cut taxes and strip excessive spending out of the welfare state redistribution from the poor? Liberals are good at playing games with language, but this is a new low.

    “The sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.” Right, I agree. How badly can our democracy be ailing if it all hinged on one awful candidate? Would Krugman have written this column if Hillary Clinton had won the election? Probably not, huh?

    I believe Krugman is just one of those liberals who are still in shock from election night. But there is one thing I agree with him totally by the title of his article. America is a Republic, not a Democracy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s